Queen Elizabeth II has instructed her lawyers to consider action against a newspaper for publishing a private photograph of the royal family without permission.

Thursday's Sun published a large front-page photo of the queen, her mother and the Duchess of York and her infant daughter, Princess Beatrice.

"The queen's (lawyers) have been instructed in connection with breach of copyright," the statement said, adding that the family portrait was "a private picture taken by a friend of the royal family."

The Sun, Britain's largest-selling newspaper, said in a statement that the photograph would not be republished "pending the resolution of our dispute with the palace."